"Shallow DOF is so overrated" and...

Started Jun 6, 2014 | Discussions thread
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"Shallow DOF is so overrated" and...

..."One might actually suggest that using extreme bokeh is just a way to cover up lazy composition, that it actually allows a photographer to be less skilled and get away with it, liken to using PS to smudge out whatever is in the background that looks bad, rather than actually planning a shot or using better judgement before the fact."

I'd like to continue a discussion on these two points that began here where I rebutted with some photos here and here.

For sure, some will like shallow DOF and some will not -- just like any other type of photography (HDR, macro, fisheye, etc.). And, like any other photographic technique, shallow DOF can be "overdone", depending on the tastes of the viewer.

But mostly what I get from the anti-shallow DOF crowd is that they are put off by shallow DOF because they think it's "bragging". For example, in response to the assertion:

If i had a nickel for everytime i heard a comment about a busy background, or subject separation. How about rather than NEEDING the subject to be separated from the background, they find a way to make them compliment each other?

I posted the following two photos:


100mm f/2 on FF:


50mm f/1.2 on FF:

Rather than discuss the role of subject and background in wide aperture photography, the response was:

I think you are overestimating the quality of those photographs. I have seen much worse of course, and i am no pro myself, but this is all very subjective for one. Some may like them, some may not, that is how art works. I don't ever share photos because i think people will say they are great shots, i share to offer technical examples of the gear, or of techniques, or i might do it for fun to share a moment. It is never about my "skill" level. I think there is a bit too much ego in offering a sample that says "hey, this is talent".

The irony of that is that the two photos were, in fact, presented as "technical examples of the gear, or techniques", in the context of wide aperture photography as it relates to isolation of the subject from the background and in terms of complementing the background. Yet, the response completely missed that point and made the not-so-subtle "accusation" that the shallow DOF was all about "ego".

In short, fondness or lack thereof for shallow DOF, like any artistic technique, is subjective.  Even for those that like shallow DOF, the effect can be overdone, depending on their aesthetics.  However, there seems to be a select group that equate shallow DOF as some sort of "ego trip" -- a "look at me and what my super huge heavy and expensive FF DSLR can do with my super cool primes that make me better than you".  Wow.  It's a photo -- relax.  Some of us happen to like the effect of shallow DOF.

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